By Mary Wright
A few of us began the day with a run down the path besides the river that Daniela Doninelli, managing director of the Steger Center, showed us. It was a beautiful path that ran through farms growing everything from squash and eggplant to tomatoes and grapes. Something I noticed after learning about the agricultural runoff in Lake Muzzano was that something similar could be happening in Riva San Vitale as well. All the farms along the river were directly channeling their runoff into the small river that flowed into Lake Lugano. While there may be a local filtration system, I could not see evidence of it.
Following our discussion with Dr. Brack Hale on Wednesday, today we had a lecture on the major water issues facing the world’s supply, distribution, and quality from Professor Moomaw. We discussed and learned about water management in practice. One interesting fact presented was that it takes 600 gallons of water to make one hamburger patty. We also learned that suburban lawns use about 10,000 gallons of water per year, which is a significant water consumption problem in this area as the Swiss people highly value well-manicured lawns. After our lecture and discussion we took a break to watch the parade through the town for Corpus Christi Day and get to know the village of Riva San Vitale a little better. It was a very interesting glimpse into the culture and life of this small town. The men and women lined up separately behind the band and the lavishly dressed priest under his canopy, swinging incense and scattering rose blossoms. It seemed to be a very solemn celebration. Many of the townspeople participated.
We worked on our group projects for the rest of the afternoon, visited the gelato shop. This shop makes homemade gelato that was some of the best I have had all trip! While gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, there are differences. (I would know since I’ve made sure to get some everyday). Gelato is smoother and creamier even though it is made with more milk than cream. This was followed by a swim in the lake before dinner and a short hike for some of us.
After dinner we began our presentations on the group projects. Each group was given the task to address a problem found at Lake Muzzano such as agricultural runoff or pollution, and come up with a solution that could then be replicated in the United States.
The first group addressed the problem of agricultural run-off by designing a system of algae screens that could be installed at the run-off points and then trap the incoming nutrients, therefore reducing the food that allowed the algae to grow in the lake. The proposal was that the algae that grow on the screen could then be harvested by the local farmers and used as fertilizer for their fields. The plan also involved a public educational and promotional scheme, suggesting events such as “Make Your Own Fertilizer Day” or even an Algae Festival.
Other groups’ ideas included a bird watching sanctuary around the lake, with boardwalks and viewing platforms to educate and involve the public, especially targeting the school children that would be most interested in the birds. Another idea was to install large-scale art installations to spark public interest and then jump-start a multi-phased plan to revamp the public life around the lake. This involved a small environmental resource center, boardwalks, events, and school field trips. Eventually in the last phase of this plan, given that the lake was clean, recreational activities such as kayaking and fishing were to be added back to the lake. A final idea was a large-scale public interest campaign that would increase the number of stakeholders who were interested in the health of the lake.
Something all of our plans had in common was that we all began addressing the problems on a smaller scope and then expanded on in a series of phases. We all realized the value of community input and participation to get support to pass legislation. Lastly, we learned the value of having multiple disciplines working together. We had architects, urban planners, environmental policy majors, and civil engineers all collaborating and coming together from different educational backgrounds. Every discipline brought unique insight to the teams.